After months of anticipation, the 2018-19 NBA season is finally upon us – and that means fans finally have an opportunity to watch some of the most highly touted rookies in recent memory hit the court. Many will be glued to the performance of Phoenix Suns big man DeAndre Ayton, who shined in his lone season at Arizona, as did Marvin Bagley III at Duke. Others will be paying close attention to Slovenian sensation Luka Doncic. Still others are expecting a big year from New York’s Kevin Knox.
Explaining the NBA Rookie of the Year award
The NBA awards its Rookie of the Year honor annually to the top rookie – in other words, the best first-year player. In some cases, a second-year player who sat out his first year due to injury is eligible to win the award.
The award began after the 1952-53 season, with Don Meineke winning the first honor. The Eddie Gottlieb Trophy, named after the former head coach of the Philadelphia Warriors, goes to the winner.
A panel of sportswriters and broadcasters vote on the candidates, ranking their top choices from 1-3. The player with the highest point total wins the honor.
NBA Rookie of the Year trends
Last season, Philadelphia 76ers swingman Ben Simmons – who sat out his real rookie season due to a right foot injury – received the honor. Simmons was the No. 1 overall pick in his draft, so his accomplishment wasn’t all that surprising. The top pick has won the award 21 times.
These days, it’s rare for a center to win Rookie of the Year. Karl-Anthony Towns won the honor in 2015-16, but before that, the last center to win Rookie of the Year was Emeka Okafor in 2004-05. You’d be better off betting on a guard or forward, and if you had to choose between the two, pick a guard. Guards have won the honor the past two years, and seven of the past eight years.
In some seasons, competition for the award is relatively slim. For example, Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon won the honor in 2016-17 after he had a solid but less than thrilling rookie year.
On the other hand, Simmons faced stiff competition last season. Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, and Kyle Kuzma all pieced together admirable debut campaigns.
Two Timberwolves players won the award in back-to-back years from 2014-16 (Andrew Wiggins and then Towns, respectively), but that was an anomaly. For that reason, you’d be better off staying away from Philadelphia rookies this season.
Though the NBA is expanding internationally, United States-born players have dominated the Rookie of the Year award. International players have only won it four times (Patrick Ewing, Pau Gasol, Wiggins, and Simmons).
It’s possible for two players to win the award in the same year, but it rarely happens. It last occurred in 1999-2000 (Steve Francis and Elton Brand).
There have only ever been five unanimous award-winners. Towns was the most recent.
NBA Rookie of the Year previous winners
Sixteen times, a Rookie of the Year has gone on to win MVP. Among those in this class: LeBron James, Tim Duncan, and Allen Iverson.
The list is filled with players who went on to have tremendous NBA careers. Recent winners include All-Pros like Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and Chris Paul.
If you go further back, you’ll find the names of some of the game’s all-time great players – names like Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Bob McAdoo, and Wilt Chamberlain.
Chamberlain and Wes Unseld somehow managed to win Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season.
Nineteen former Rookies of the Year have made it into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
Understanding 2018 NBA Rookie of the Year betting odds
Understanding sports betting odds may seem complicated, but it is, in fact, quite simple. Each player’s odds are listed below with a plus sign. That plus sign and the number following it signify how much money you will receive if you wager on that player.
For example, a $100 bet on Doncic at +300 would return a total of $400 if he wins MVP. This number includes your original $100, plus $300. A $100 bet on a longshot such as Zhaire Smith, who is +9000, would return significantly more. In this example, you would receive $9100 if Smith were to win the award.
Picking the next NBA Rookie of the Year winner
Fans have good reason to be excited about Doncic. He was the EuroLeague MVP last year, and he looks ready to shine on the biggest stage. The 6-foot-7 swingman is a guard with a forward’s body. He plays with an edge, and he should have ample opportunity in Dallas.
Ayton was the No. 1 pick, and he looks like the most physically well-developed rookie big man we’ve seen in a long, long time. He is a true force in the paint. Further, he has already exchanged trash-talk with some of the best centers in the game, like Philly’s Joel Embiid. Don’t expect him to back down from anyone.
We do like Knox, but feel his odds have escalated a bit too much. He will have opportunity to step up as the Knicks’ top scoring option – at least, that is, until Kristaps Porzingis returns from his ACL injury (likely around January or February, though the team hasn’t officially set a return date). NBA teams picked eight players before Knox, however, and it’s surprising to see him climb all the way up to No. 3 in the odds.
We’re also down on Collin Sexton, whose defense is tremendous but still needs to improve offensively. Bettor beware.
Bagley III and Trae Young are good bets at their moderate lines. Young has the potential to explode offensively, and big stats often draw the attention of award voters. NBA defenses will look to be physical with Young – they’ll hope to contain his explosiveness. But if he can figure out a way to get his shot off cleanly, look out. He’s a threat to score from practically anywhere on the court.
If you’re looking for a sleeper, consider betting on Donte DiVincenzo, who stepped up in a big way for Villanova in the national championship game and has +4400 odds. Sacramento’s Harry Giles, who missed his first season while recovering from a knee injury, is an intriguing option at +3600. Lastly, we like Utah’s Grayson Allen at +7500, as he seems to already have developed chemistry with Donovan Mitchell.
NBA Rookie of the Year odds
Luka Doncic, Dallas G -1200
DeAndre Ayton, Phoenix C +800
Trae Young, Atlanta G +1600
Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis F +1600